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Top 15 NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC

Top 15 NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC
Nov 08, 2005, 12:01 am
While the SEC is getting the most mention for having lost so much to the professional ranks, it was the ACC that lost the players the NBA were actually interested in. Seven ACC players were drafted in the first round, and two more were gone within the first ten picks of the second. While there is an incredible amount of professional level talent joining the ACC in 2006, it has been a while since the conference has been this diluted in terms of NBA prospects. Not surprisingly, the majority of the legitimate first round prospects at this juncture are Blue Devils. The only really proven non-Blue Devil prospect is Miami's Guillermo Diaz, who certainly wouldn't be considered a polished prodcut just yet. There is plenty of raw talent in the freshman and sophomore classes, and you can be sure that several of the underclassmen will emerge as legitimate first round prospects of the course of this year's Atlantic Coast Conference action.

1. 6’9 PF Shelden Williams, senior, Duke

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There aren’t many college prospects as accomplished as Williams, and he might just add a National Championship to his resume before he heads to the NBA. Williams might not have superstar upside, but there is a lot to like about his potential on the next level. The first thing you will notice about Williams is that he is built like a ton of bricks. Pound for pound, he is likely the strongest college basketball player in the nation. Beyond being able to push people around on the block, Williams is a tenacious rebounder, and lethal shot blocker. Williams doesn’t appear to be explosive on first glance, and that has left a lot of surprised opponents over the years. His instincts and technique are phenomenal in both areas. Williams has enough fundamental understanding to be a consistent scorer in college, but doesn’t project to be a top scorer at the NBA level. He will attempt to feature more of a faceup game this fall, but Williams’ strength is likely always going to be his toughness around the basket. With improvement in the right areas over this upcoming season, Shelden Williams is a likely lottery pick next June.

2. 6’2 G Guillermo Diaz, junior, Miami

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Diaz is one of the more exciting players to watch in the country, and that comes from his downright lethal ability to dunk the basketball. However, Diaz can excel in more than just a dunk contest. He is an exceptional streak shooter, and will hit contested three point shots from well beyond the arc once he gets going. Diaz is accomplished off the dribble as well, able to hit the floating midrange jumper, as well as slash all the way to the basket. He projects as a point guard at the next level, and will have to improve his floor general instincts before he gets there. Diaz will always be a scoring-oriented player, but decision making issues, such as when to shoot and when to push the tempo, have been a problem thus far in his career. NBA scouts aren’t quite convinced that he has the basketball IQ to run an NBA team full-time someday. Nonetheless, Guillermo Diaz has a very high upside, and a tantalizing blend of explosiveness and scoring ability. He could be a first round pick as early as the 2006 NBA draft.

3. 6’10 PF Josh McRoberts, freshman, Duke

McRoberts was considered by many to be the number one high school senior in the nation last year, and actually turned down the opportunity to be a likely lottery pick in the 2005 NBA draft. McRoberts is both a physical marvel and quite polished. He will need to add on a bit more weight, but appears to have the right kind of frame to bulk up a bit more. McRoberts has the sort of feel for the game that allows him to be effective in many different ways. He can use his length and touch to score with his back to the basket, but is just as comfortable facing the cup. He can score in the mid-post, or knock down the outside jumper with ease. While McRoberts isn’t going to be the man at Duke this fall, that doesn’t necessarily work against him in regards to the draft. Marvin Williams was in a similar position a season ago, as a complementary piece on a championship team. It wouldn’t surprise anybody to McRoberts follow in Williams’ footsteps this season, but he could easily take a couple of seasons to perfect his game at the college level. Either way, Josh McRoberts projects as a likely lottery pick at this early juncture whenever he decides to turn pro.

4. 6’4 SG J.J. Redick, senior, Duke

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J.J. Redick is the third Blue Devil on this list, yet is likely the most important player in regards to Duke’s 2006 national championship hopes. Shooters like Redick only come along once in a while, and Redick utilizes his ability to hit from anywhere as well as anybody. He has a remarkably quick release, and is just as comfortable shooting a fully extended fade-away with a man in his face as he is spotting up. He is the master of the momentum changing shot, hanging around the 3-point line for long offensive rebounds, and regularly running defenders around screens for thirty seconds before nailing the dagger as the shot clock expires. Teams are forced to design their defensive game-plan to stop him, so even if Redick has an off shooting night, he changes the game by keeping the focus off of his teammates. Redick isn’t an athletic marvel, but has gotten better at taking advantage of defenders overplaying his shot. He is just quick enough to get by overeager opponents, and can get his shot off slashing to the basket. Redick has also nearly mastered the ability to draw contact and get to the free throw line, where he simply doesn’t miss. Redick projects to be a specialist on the next level. Though it isn’t for lack of trying, he doesn’t have the quickness or size to guard NBA wings. Nonetheless, Redick is going to be effective at stretching defenses in the NBA the moment he steps onto the court. Duke’s last shooting specialist to get drafted in the first round, Trajan Langdon, didn’t work out so well, but Redick has a quicker release and better range on his shot. He should be a mid-late first round pick in the upcoming NBA draft depending on what type of season senior he has for himself.

5. 6’10 C Sean Williams, sophomore, Boston College

It is hard to know what to do with a prospect that might not even play college basketball this season. Williams’ current situation is a difficult one to figure out. He ran into legal problems last spring and was subsequently booted out of school. Williams is currently back at home taking classes at Houston, and hopes to be reinstated for the second semester at BC. It isn’t clear how his pending legal case could affect the situation. If he does make it back on the court this year, coming back at midseason is going to leave this already raw big man at a disadvantage when it comes to playing big minutes. Nonetheless, Williams oozes potential every time he steps onto the court. He is 6’10, long-armed, and such an explosive leaper it almost isn’t fair. Williams could afford to gain a bit of bulk, but it doesn’t look like that will be a problem. When it comes to natural shot blocking tools, Williams is without peer at the college level. His offensive game remains quite raw, but he has shown flashes of being effective there as well. While the off the court issues probably make Williams a 2007 NBA draft prospect at the earliest, he probably needed a season without Craig Smith around where he can be the feature player in the post. Sean Williams’ status as a draft prospect is currently tenuous at best, but if he can get back on the court, his upside is tremendous.

6. 6’9 PF Eric Williams, senior, Wake Forest

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Williams really turned the corner as a player last season, and took the opportunity to show off his game to the NBA scouts at the Chicago Pre-Draft camp. While the resounding consensus was that he ought to head back to Wake Forest for his senior season, there was little doubt that Williams was one of the better big men in the gym. After arriving on campus a physically imposing but quite raw freshman, Williams has steadily improved his game to the point where one might actually be able to label him polished this year. There isn’t a defender at the college level capable of keeping him from gaining post position, and he has a very nice little jump hook that he uses to convert around the basket. He needs to continue to improve as a rebounder and defender, but has the bulk to be effective in those areas. The real issue limiting Williams’ NBA draft stock is his height, as he measured in at only 6-8 ½ at the Chicago pre-draft camp last summer. While he does have some freakishly long arms (a 7-4 wingspan and 9 foot standing reach), Williams will have to make the move to power forward in the NBA, with all the face-up skills that go along with that. At the moment, Eric Williams is a borderline first round draft pick.

7. 6’8 SF Nik Caner-Medley, senior, Maryland

Caner-Medley sometimes gets a bad rap for Maryland’s struggles over the past two seasons, but is generally a better college-level player than people give him credit for. He has excellent size for the small forward position, and his 240 pound frame is where it needs to be for the NBA. Caner-Medley has adequate athleticism and skill for the perimeter, but hasn’t always been the consistent producer that Maryland needs him to be. He isn’t the guy that is going to create offense by himself on a regular basis. Caner-Medley is much more effective slashing to the basket, popping mid-range jumpers from the baseline, and hitting the occasional outside shot. While Caner-Medley may never be a standout at the NBA level, he does have the size and athleticism to be a factor. He can defend several positions, which could help him out a lot. NBA scouts would like to see Caner-Medley be a bit more consistent as an outside shooter. He will get hot from time to time, but has been prone to major cold spells thus far in his career. Nik Caner-Medley isn’t a lock to get drafted just yet, but a big senior season could really bump his draft stock.

8. 6’7 SF Jared Dudley, junior, Boston College

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Dudley has come a long way since his days as an undersized power forward still looking for a home after his senior season of high school. Dudley rejoined the AAU circuit, and found a willing suitor in Al Skinner at Boston College. Dudley made an immediate impact as a freshman, but has continued to significantly develop his game. He remains a combo forward at the college level, where big men have a real problem with his quickness and tenacity around the basket. Dudley is a developing perimeter player, but has drawn high marks for his outside shoot and passing skills. He even began driving the ball to the basket with a bit of authority over the course of last season. Dudley is still most effective when he can out leap slower-footed frontcourt prospects right around the basket, but given the rapid rate of improvement, he could develop into a hard nosed, post oriented small forward at the next level. Jared Dudley’s NBA future is far from certain, but he is a player to keep an eye over the next two seasons.

9. 6’9 PF Tyler Hansbrough, freshman, North Carolina

Being labeled as the savior of North Carolina basketball this season could be considered a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how one decides to look at it. On one hand, Hansbrough will see immediate playing time, plenty of offensive opportunities, and all the exposure he could ever ask for. On the other, he is Roy Williams’ only ACC-caliber post player, and will have to man the frontcourt by himself in one of the most demanding conferences in America. That’s quite a bit of pressure for a college freshman. Hansbrough revels in physical post battles, and with plays with an incredibly intense demeanor. He has a knack for making plays around the basket, and has an array of scoring moves to pick from. While it is clear that Hansbrough is going to be very effective at the college level very early in his career, it isn’t quite as obvious whether or not his game will translate into the NBA. He has very nice size for a college power forward, but won’t have that advantage in the league. It isn’t clear whether he is athletic enough to be such a factor around the basket in the NBA. While Hansbrough may not have the upside of other players that have dominated the high school ranks, he is much more of a sure thing than most. Tyler Hansbrough is likely a 3-4 year college player, but will be on the NBA radar right away.

10. 6’9 PF Alexander Johnson, junior, Florida State

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It is a surprise to see Johnson so low on list like this. Johnson seemed ready to emerge after a promising freshman season, but floundered through a disappointing year that was marred by injuries and a loss of confidence. Even if hobbled at times, it is hard to believe such a physically superior player like Johnson couldn’t even average 7 points or 4 rebounds per game. When at his best, Johnson will show off the type of low-block explosiveness and polished perimeter game that few college players can match. He is bulky and tall, and has the raw tools that NBA scouts want to see. Johnson had laser surgery to correct the eyesight that made him nearly legally blind off the court and has shed over 20 pounds this past summer to regain the outstanding athletic ability that made him such a highly touted high school recruit to begin with. It is still too early to tell whether Alexander Johnson will develop into a legitimate NBA Draft prospect, but he has the physical attributes and all-around inside-outside offensive game to be a breakout candidate in his junior year.

11. 6’2 PG Justin Gray, senior, Wake Forest

Justin Gray is one of the more accomplished players in the conference, having been one of the league’s top scoring options since his freshman season. He is an impressive volume shooter, able to get hot and simply bury teams. Gray is also a factor off of the dribble, able to get into the lane and score over bigger players. However, there is some serious doubt about his NBA future. Gray hasn’t shown the instincts of an effective point guard, and his production has suffered when he has played the position. This season will decide his NBA fate, as he will be taking over for Chris Paul as the team’s floor general. If he can lead the Demon Deacons to a successful season and continue to score in an efficient manner, look for Gray’s stock to rise significantly. If he struggles under the weight of trying to create for his teammates while still looking for his own, Justin Gray’s name may fall off the NBA radar completely.

12. 6’7 PF Craig Smith, senior, Boston College

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Craig Smith has been one of the more productive players in the country since his freshman season. He is bulky enough to create space for himself in the post, and uses it to score at will. Almost like a college version of Charles Barkley, Smith is capable of taking his game off of the block, but isn’t ever going to be considered a true wing. Also like Barkley, he is likely a bit shorter than his listed height. Despite his dominance at the college level, it is hard to see Smith as a viable NBA power forward. The case of Jason Maxiell gives players like Craig Smith a bit of hope, but Maxiell has a burst of explosiveness that Smith will never approach. He is a likely second round draft pick at best in the upcoming draft.

13. 6’10 PF Andrew Brackman, sophomore, NC State

Brackman might not be a household name outside of the ACC at the moment, but expect him to become one very soon. A spectacular all-around athlete, it wasn’t clear how long Brackman would play basketball due to his abilities on the baseball diamond. Brackman flashed quite a bit of potential as a freshman. He is tall enough to play center, athletic enough to be a major factor as a shot-blocker, and skilled enough to change games with his three point shooting. He hit double figures eight times in an eleven game stretch early in the season, and then really turned it on down the stretch. This season, Brackman is significantly bulked up and ready to take on a much more significant role for the Wolfpack. Brackman is still a work in progress, but with Julius Hodge graduated, don’t be surprised if he has a breakout season. While it was once said Brackman’s professional future was on the mound, he may soon have the option of pursuing a career as a basketball player.

14. 6’9 PF Ra’Sean Dickey, sophomore, Georgia Tech

One of several sophomores that will have to step up in a big way for the Yellow Jackets, Dickey was impressive at times as a freshman. He has the type of size, athleticism, and agility that will always keep the scouts showing up, but also showed nice touch around the basket and the general knowledge of how to use his body to score. Dickey still needs to polish up his all around game, specifically on defense and when it comes to passing out of the post. Nonetheless, Ra’Sean Dickey enters the season as Paul Hewitt’s number one post scoring option. He still far away from being ready to take his game to the NBA, but is a player that could eventually end up as a first rounder if he continues to progress over the next few years.

15. 6’6 SF David Noel, senior, North Carolina

Up until this point, David Noel has played a supporting role to his headline grabbing classmates. Those players are all in the NBA now, so Noel will finally get a chance to show what he can do in full-time minutes. He certainly has the athleticism and body to play in the NBA, and is physical enough on the defensive end to be effective at the next level in that regard. His offensive game is where Noel has the most work to do. He will hit an occasional three pointer, but isn’t a good ball-handler, and doesn’t have the overall polish of an NBA perimeter player. He is most effective using his strength and athleticism around the basket, and with the lack of frontcourt players on his team, that is likely where he will see a lot of his time this season. Noel will get a chance to impress the NBA scouts this fall, and could potentially get drafted if he can showcase an improved perimeter game.

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